Implementation of the Law on Free Legal Aid begins

After several months of discussions on providing free legal aid in Serbia, on November 9, 2018, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Free Legal Aid (the “Law“), published in the Official Gazette No. 87/2018, on November 13, 2018. The implementation of the Law will commence on October 1, 2019.

The Law stipulates that free legal aid can be provided by lawyers in all procedures, legal aid services in local governments, in these services legal aid is provided by associates, but only within the powers provided for associates by law. Associations can also provide free legal aid, but only within the goals for which they were founded, as well as under the provisions governing asylum law and law on prohibition of discrimination. In addition to providing free legal aid, the law also provides free legal support, which includes providing general legal information, completing forms, drafting a notarial document and mediating dispute resolution. The Law stipulates that free legal support can be provided by public notaries, mediators and law schools. Providers of free legal support are prohibited by Law from providing free legal aid. In addition, the Law stipulates that legal aid providers are to be registered in the Register of Legal Aid Providers (the “Register“). Providers of free legal support are also enrolled in the same Register. As the law stipulates that the Register is kept by the Ministry responsible for justice, the Ministry of Justice on 18 September 2019 sent a request to the Bar Association of Serbia, interested associations, faculties of law, mediators in dispute resolution and public notaries to enter the Register. The Law stipulates conditions for the provision of free legal aid, so that it can be provided to a person who is eligible to be a beneficiary of the right to financial social assistance, but also to persons who do not meet those conditions, but who, by paying legal aid, would be in a situation to be eligible for exercising the right to social assistance. The right to use free legal aid is granted to nationals, stateless persons, foreign nationals with permanent residence in the Republic of Serbia, as well as other persons to whom this right is provided by another law. In order for a person to exercise their right to free legal aid, it is necessary to apply for the grant of free legal aid to a municipal or city administration or to the administration of the City of Belgrade.

The law begins to apply from 01 October 2019. The law was created to enable more effective protection of violated rights. At the same time the Law provided for said protection to meet the standards of the right to a fair trial.